Congressman Ben Ray Luján Announces $429,000 in Specialty Crop Grants to Help New Mexico Farmers

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District announced today that the New Mexico Department of Agriculture is receiving $429,000 in Specialty Crop grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The funds will go toward seven projects in the state that promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program assists producers of fresh fruits and vegetables and helps strengthen markets for specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture.  The funding for New Mexico is part of a $52 million investment in grants that support 694 initiatives across the country.

“An integral part of New Mexico’s economy is driven by the hard work of farmers and producers across the state that provide specialty crops that are part of the fabric of the Land of Enchantment,” Congressman Luján said.  “From chiles to pecans, New Mexico’s specialty crops represent not only jobs in our communities, but a source of pride.  These federal funds will help our local farmers and producers take steps to sustain their livelihoods and create more opportunities to sell their distinct products.”

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is receiving $429,210 to support the following seven projects:

  • Partner with the New Mexico Chile Association to increase demand and price premiums for New Mexico chile growers and processers by developing and implementing a region of production certification program for New Mexico chile peppers.
  • Partner with the New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association to increase sales of specialty crops by educating new and beginning farmers about what it takes to be successful as a specialty crop farmer in the state, creating brand loyalty among specialty crop buyers, and engaging the next generation of youth in issues of food, farming, and sustainability through a series of short videos to be shown on YouTube and at statewide events.
  • Partner with the New Mexico Wine Growers Association to increase traffic to New Mexico’s wineries by designing and implementing tourism-oriented promotional materials and by developing a Smartphone application to guide tourists to winery destinations, provide them with information and discounts, and alert them to events the wineries offer.
  • Increase awareness of New Mexico specialty crops and value-added products by reaching out to national food and beverage associations through product sampling, demonstrations, seminars, workshops, and tradeshows.
  • Capture new target markets and create greater demand for New Mexico’s green chile peppers by developing and implementing new marketing strategies including in-store demonstrations, advertising activities, and restaurant promotions.
  • Partner with New Mexico State University to increase consistent projection of pecans by studying the issue of alternate bearing, measuring the genetic signals to pinpoint the timing of pecan flower induction, and sharing the results with pecan growers at various conferences and through the NMSU Cooperative Extension Bulletin.
  • Perform pre-award and post-award activities to administer Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding and ensure that the State Agency and sub-awardees abide by Federal and State requirements and regulations.